Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Roger S.H. Schulman & Joe Stillman, based on the book by William Steig Directed by: Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
My Advice: Matinee
Shrek (voiced by Myers) is an ogre who lives a pretty good life. He has his own swamp to live in, mud to wash himself with, and villagers to terrify. Farquaad (voiced by Lithgow) is lord of the nearby lands, and wants to create the perfect realm for himself. In order to do so, he forces all of the fairytale creatures out, relocating them right onto Shrek’s doorstep. Now all Farquaad needs is a bride, and guess who shows up in time to strike a deal to get him one?
Developer: Croteam Publisher: Gathering of Developers Platform: Win 95/98/Me ESRB Rating: M (Blood & Gore, Violence)
First off, don’t worry if you haven’t played the first Serious Sam. I hadn’t and it’s not necessary. Second, while it’s called Serious Sam, the game is in fact, very silly. The chainsaw-wielding maniacs with jack-o-lantern heads are a big clue. There is a plot, but it’s not that important to your gaming experience. You’re killing alien invaders in pre-Columbian South America, ancient Babylon, and medieval Europe. And killing lots and lots of alien baddies. Did I mention the killing?
On paper, Serious Sam 2 sounds like another Duke Nukem clone. Clearing levels of bad guys, picking up keys, ammo, and power ups, and taking out the boss creature at the end while talking trash. However, within that formula the development team from Croatia (yes, Croatia, really) has worked in a lot of originality and style. The enemies have definite attack strategies that require the player to use the various moves and weapons available. And their design runs the gamut from silly (the above mentioned pumpkin-headed maniacs with chainsaws) to the scary (bigass demons that toss massive fireballs at you).
Written by: William Broyles, Jr. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Christopher Noth
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
Chuck Noland (Hanks) is an efficiency expert for Federal Express. He travels around the world, preaching the doctrine that no time should be wasted. For Noland, speed is all that separates FedEx from becoming the Postal Service. So wrapped up is he in his career that many times his relationship with his fiancee, Kelly (Hunt), takes a back seat. During the holidays, he is called overseas to handle an efficiency emergency for the company. But he never reaches his destination. Due to a fairly spectacular plane crash, he finds himself washed up on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His chances for rescue slim to none, he must find a way to stay alive, despite the odds being stacked against him.
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, translated into English by Neil Gaiman Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson
Released by: Miramax Region: 1 Rating: NR Anamorphic: Yes.
My Advice: Own it.
When a demon invades his village and sets in motion events that are certain to eventually claim his life, Ashitaka (voiced by Crudup), must accept his destiny and go forth to find the origins of the demon and end the evil. On his journey he meets the beautiful yet savage San (voiced by Danes), who, with her family of wolves, is at war with the Lady Eboshi (voiced by Driver). Eboshi wants all the wilderness destroyed so she can mine for iron ore, whereas San is the forest’s protector. They want to kill each other. Out of all of this conflict, Ashitaka must somehow find a way to bring all the sides in this war to peace–lest no one survive.
Written and Directed by: Cameron Crowe Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman
My Advice: Don’t Miss It.
William Miller (Fugit) is a young aspiring writer who is given music by his sister (Zooey Deschanel) as a parting gift when she runs off with her boyfriend to escape their mother (McDormand), who isn’t exactly domineering–let’s just say she cares a lot. He takes the music and makes it his life, and at the age of fifteen, William meets Lester Bangs (Hoffman). Bangs, an editor for Creem magazine gives William his first assignment–to write an article on Black Sabbath. While trying to get into the concert, he meets not only the band Stillwater but also their lead “band-aid”, Penny Lane (Hudson). His relationships with Lane, the band, and music journalism all come to a head as this young man comes of age on Stillwater’s tour.
Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe, story by Andrew W. Marlowe & Gary Scott Thompson Directed by: Paul Verhoeven Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, William Devane
My Advice: Rental.
Sebastian Caine (Bacon) is an asshole. You can tell this because when characters are named Sebastian they undoubtedly are assholes. He works with his ex, Linda (Shue), and her clandestine new lover, Matt (Brolin). They’ve been experimenting with phase shifting animals out of the visible universe…kind of like a H.G. Wells’ Doctor Dolittle kind of thing. Caine is so sure of himself that he’s ready to try the process out on himself, just like any ethical mad scientist would do. But…is he ready to face the consequences of this decision? And more importantly…are the supporting characters? And even more importantly, should you subject yourself to such a film?
Written by: Clark Gregg, story by Clark Gregg & Sarah Kernochan Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Starring: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid, James Remar, Miranda Otto
My Advice: Wait for MST3K.
The Spencers (Ford and Pfeiffer) have just sent their only daughter (Katherine Towne) off to college, and now they’re trying to cope with an empty nest. Well, Mrs. S is; Mr. S is engrossed in his research studies. Things get a bit complex as strange phenomena begin to occur in their house–only apparent to Mrs. S though. Either she’s going nutso or there is something in their house–but if she’s still sane, then what is this entity and, most importantly, what does it want with her?
Now you know I’ve never been one to write reviews that contain spoilers, and I’m not about to start here. But still, the primary problem with this film is that the trailers, the synopsis released by DreamWorks–everything the studio has put out goes ahead and tells you that the spirit in the house is a girl that Mr. S had an affair with. So with that knowledge, what’s the point of the first hour of the film? It consists of a Hitch-schlockian red herring that we already know is false. So what could have been at least intriguing is instead a real waste of time. And of course, when I say “first hour” that strongly implies that there is a second hour. There is–and you can feel every minute of it.
Directed by Bryan Singer Written by David Hayter, story by Tom DeSanto & Bryan Singer Starring Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
There’s a war brewing, and the lines are being drawn. Mankind is evolving to the next step, and that step happens to be “mutants,” people with superhuman abilities. Trouble is, mankind isn’t too keen on their brethren being able to do these neato things, and the general populace becomes afraid and belligerent, as they are wont to do. Among the mutants, there are two factions. Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) believes in getting past the ignorance of humanity and preaches tolerance. Erik Lensherr, also known as Magneto (McKellen), thinks Xavier is suffering from a major delusion and that humanity and tolerance are mutually exclusive.